Al Jazeera English has found a home in New York City, but like most newcomers to the Big Apple it’s only a sublet.
The Qatar-based satellite news network launched a 23-hours-a-day feed Monday morning on a channel operated by WRNN, a privately-owned broadcaster. It is available on Time Warner Cable and will also soon run on Verizon FiOS, the New York Daily News reports. All told, the deal will make Al Jazeera English available to roughly 2 million homes in the New York-New Jersey area.
Al Jazeera’s extensive coverage of the Arab Spring has garnered the network widespread international praise – along with a 2,500-percent increase in Web traffic. But network officials have yet to capitalize on that success to achieve their biggest goal: national distribution in the U.S. (The channel does, however, have a similar sublease in the D.C. market.)
Network officials hope that gaining a foothold in the New York City market will open the door for a permanent spot in the lineups of major cable and satellite providers. “We will get on in the U.S.,” Al Anstey, the channel’s managing director, told the New York Times in an interview.
The network was launched in 2006 as an offshoot of Al Jazeera Arabic, a channel that had been demonized by the Bush administration for broadcasting al-Qaida tapes. The Obama administration has since praised the English-language version, and company executives say that the stigma has dissipated to the point where it no longer comes up in meetings with cable executives.
Instead, the biggest hurdle facing the network may now be about business, not content. “The incremental value of adding one channel to the hundreds in our lineup rarely offsets the broader challenges of rising programming costs and bandwidth management,” cable provider Cox told the Times in a statement.